Saturday November 28th, 2015 4:34AM

SCOGA rules in favor of Baldwin in dispute with engineering firm

By Staff
ATLANTA - The city of Baldwin in Habersham County will not have to pay more than $200,000 in fees to an engineering firm for work it did on a proposal for the city's wastewater treatment plant.

The Supreme Court of Georgia Monday morning reversed a Georgia Court of Appeals decision that would have awarded Woodard & Curran $203,807, saying that the firm never had a valid contract for a large portion of the work it performed.

The case dates back to 2008 when federal stimulus funds became available for construction projects through the Georgia Environmental Financing Authority (GEFA). The city of Baldwin approached Woodard & Curran to help the city apply for funds with the goal of making improvements to Baldwin's wastewater treatment plant.

According to a statement from the Supreme Court of Georgia, in May 2009, the city and firm entered into a contract stating that for $5,000, Woodard and Curran would provide supporting engineering documents for the city's funding application for the stimulus funds. The city council approved the contract, as required by the city charter, and following completion of the application, the city paid Woodard & Curran $5,000.

The next month, the the firm submitted a second document labeled "Proposal for Professional Engineering Design Services," which contained a schedule of the work and a scope of services for a total fee not to exceed $210,000. That proposal listed the services the firm would provide to continue the plant project, which would include hiring surveyors, hiring geo-technical core drillers, getting bids for the work and completing the design plans.

In August, then-Mayor Michael Kelley signed the June proposal under  Authorization to Proceed, although he did not date the document. He later testified that he had not dated it because he could not himself obligate the city, and he had explained to the firm's project manager that the June proposal would not be authorized until the city council approved it.

After the mayor signed the proposal, however, Woodard & Curran began to work on the tasks described in the proposal. Meanwhile, the stimulus funds dried up before the city received any money, so the project did not go forward.

The city council never approved the June proposal.

When the engineering firm later submitted an invoice to the city for $203,870.44 for the work outlined in the June proposal, the city denied payment, claiming the June proposal was unauthorized  and therefore not binding.

Woodard & Curran then sued the city in Habersham County Superior Court, seeking $203,870.44 for breach of contract. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Woodard & Curran for $203,000, and the Court of Appeals upheld the verdict. The city then took the case to the state Supreme Court.

In the unanimous SCOGA opinion, Justice David Nahmias wrote that while Woodard & Curran did perform the work as outlined in the June proposal, that work was not authorized in the May proposal, which had been authorized by Baldwin City Council. The June proposal, while signed by the Mayor, was not a valid contract, since the city council had not approved the expenditure.

© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Ethics laws set to take effect Jan. 1 in Georgia
After dominating much of the legislative session, a set of major ethics reforms is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
7:04PM ( 1 year ago )
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
PLAYOFFS: Three goes into four, as area trio earn semifinal berths
Once the dust settled on Friday night, northeast Georgia found three teams still standing in the state football playoffs -- and it was so nearly four...
9:14AM ( 4 hours from now )
Standoff at Planned Parenthood ends with suspect's arrest; 3 killed, 9 wounded
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — A gunman who opened fire inside a Planned Parenthood clinic was arrested Friday after engaging in gun battles with authorities during an hourslong standoff that killed t...
1:13AM ( 3 hours ago )
Black Friday: The Super Bowl of shopping starts in stores, but it looks very different
NEW YORK (AP) — The annual ritual of Black Friday, as we know it, is over.Gone are the throngs of frenzied shoppers camping out for days ahead of the big sales bonanza on the day after Thanksgiving. A...
10:13PM ( 6 hours ago )
Deadline to sponsor Wreaths Across America at Alta Vista is Monday
Each holiday season, veteran grave sites at Alta Vista cemetery in Gainesville are adorned with wreaths as part of Wreaths Across America.
3:42PM ( 12 hours ago )
PHOTO GALLERY: Holiday shoppers hit Gainesville stores early
Black Friday may still have status as the kickoff to the holiday shopping season, but Thanksgiving Thursday is gaining ground as more stores opt to open early.
By AccessWDUN staff
10:01AM ( 18 hours ago )